CITY LIGHTS

It was a Tuesday in October
or a Wednesday in March,
hard to say which, but evening.
We had taken a cab from the Hyatt
Embarcadero or the Fairmont,
it didn’t much matter,
and sat in the Chinese restaurant
on the edge of Chinatown, or
a pasta and seafood joint
in North Beach, and you said
it was a small earthquake, while I
was certain it was the waiter
who drained the half empty
wine glasses en route to the kitchen.
We walked slowly along the street
past the “World Famous Condor”
in all its tacky glory, and I said
it was the birthplace of silicon,
we had Carol Doda to thank for that
and you said I was perverted
and suggested we go across the street
to the club featuring nude dancers,
but I balked when I saw they were men.
Finally we compromised and walked
around the corner to the City Lights.
You wandered impatiently around
while I stood transfixed
in the poetry section, a warren
of shelves, a ladder on wheels
and corners, and held, almost fondled
a fresh copy of Coney Island of the Mind.
I read it slowly, a man stood
behind me shifting his weight
from foot to foot, “It’s not all that good,
adequate, but there’s Bukowski and Ginsberg.”
Without looking back, I reached for Gasoline.
“At least that’s a good choice,” he said
and in growing anger I turned
and sneered into the nose
of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.


First Published in Creative Juices, December 1998.

REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrash as you will
the barb only tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.


First appeared in Chaminade Literary Review Vols. 16-17 (1995)

EARLY ARRIVAL

Autumn came on hard today
the drop in temperature not
unexpected in these climes, but still
unwanted, forcing the closing of windows.
Still, as the afternoon faded, I shouted
toward the window a reminder
not to go gently into night to fight
the soon approaching dark.
The squirrel on the lawn outside
the window stood, forepaws held
together as if deep in prayer and stared
back at me, seemingly incredulous,
so I loudly repeated my entreaty.
He shook both head and tail, then said,
“For God’s sake man, if you want
to be the next Dylan Thomas have
several more drinks, and please
next time try and get the lines right!”
He turned and headed up the old maple.

GOING

Mingus
            twisting 
roiling
                blood of streets
       child’s cry
                        laughter of old men
            s
             w
               o     
                  o
                      p
                          i
                             n
                                    g
            perched
on a spit valve

Kerouac
                        flying
            rainbowed
    rolling slowly
            e  l  e  c  t  r  i  c
                  imbibing Bukowski
       manchild
                           locked
                                                onto a page.

ACT IV

He knew he should not have brought the gun. He hated guns,
they served no purpose in his world of words. He wanted to
look at it, to stare at it, really. He thought that if he did so
he might be better able to write about the senselessness
of the world in which he lived, a world he so very much wanted to
change. He had the gun. He knew what he had to do. He
shot a hole in the forehead of the picture of Anton Chekhov
that hung on the wall over his desk.

VLADIMIR

Krevchinsky froze
his ass off on the Siberian plain.
The gray concrete box
was traded for concrete gray skies,
the whistle of the truncheon
gives way to winter’s blasts.
It was in many ways easier
when the beatings came
neatly marking the days
dividing days between pain
and exhaustion, all under
the watchful eye
of the meek incandescent sun
dangling from the ceiling.
In the camp day and night
are reflections of an unseen clock,
seasons slide
from discontent to depression.
The prison of the body is finite
built block on block,
the prison of the soul
is vast, empty, dissipating life.


First appeared in HazMat Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1996) and later in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006).